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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   453
lorries rilled with people rode past: a small group was
marching in military formation,
'"Uncle Arkasha must have got drunk," surmised Alexei.
"Suppose we have to spend the night here?"
'Tm not afraid of anything when Fm with you,"
answered Olya, looking at him with her large, sparkling
He put his arms round her and kissed her, kissed her
for the first and only time. The clicking of rowlocks was
heard from the river; the ferry-boat loaded with people
was approaching from the other side. Now they looked
at the boat with disgust, but they obediently went to
meet it as if urged by a foreboding of what it was bring-
ing them.
The people jumped out of the boat in silence. All
were in their best dresses, but their faces were troubled and
gloomy. Men with grave faces and seemingly in a hurry,
and women with eyes red from weeping, passed the
young couple without uttering a word. Not knowing
what had happened, the two jumped into the boat.
Without looking at their happy faces Uncle Arkasha
"War.. . it was on the air this morning/'
"War? With whom?" asked Alexei, almost jumping oif
his seat.
"With those damned fascists, who else?" growled Uncle
Arkasha, angrily tugging at his oars. "The men have
already gone to the District Military Commissariat. Mo-
Alexei went straight to the Military Commissariat
without going home, and at night he was already on the
12:40 train, on his way to the aircraft unit to which he
was appointed, scarcely having had time to run home
for his suitcase, and not even having said good-bye to
* They corresponded rarely, not because their sentiments
towards each other had cooled, or because they were
forgetting each other. No. He looked forward impa-
tiently for those letters written in the round, schoolgirl's
hand, kept them in his pocket and, when alone, read
them over and over again. It was these letters that he
pressed to his heart and gazed at during the terrible time